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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Soldier hails Gulf case win
Alex Izett
Alex Izett was not actually sent to the Gulf

A former soldier says a tribunal's ruling on the connection between injections and Gulf War Syndrome is "a great step forward" for campaigners.

A war pensions appeal tribunal ruled Alex Izett's brittle bone disease could be linked to a cocktail of injections he had before the Gulf War.

Mr Izett - who served with the Royal Engineers - was never actually sent to the conflict but developed unexpected illness in the same way as many veterans.

The Ministry of Defence has said it will not challenge the finding made by the tribunal in December, but it does not agree with the verdict.

Army veterans have described the ruling as the first official recognition of Gulf War Syndrome.

They have taken my dignity, my livelihood but they are not going to take my life as well
Alex Izett

It has taken until now to get the paperwork confirming the findings from the War Pensions Agency.

The tribunal found that "the appellant was vaccinated with a concoction of drugs prior to planned deployment in the Gulf War.

"The concoction of drugs caused osteoporosis."

Mr Izett's condition left him unable to work and very depressed.

"I suffered the exact same symptoms as people who actually served in the Gulf who also had the same inoculations," he told the BBC.

"My bones started to deteriorate, I lost muscles, I had stomach problems, I had psychiatric problems. I am really depressed and I have also had two suicide attempts."

'Official backing'

Mr Izett, 33, who is from Cumbernauld, Strathclyde, but who now lives in Bersenbruck in Germany, said he was then diagnosed with osteoporosis.

"I cannot lift more than 20lbs. I can't pick my children up," he said.

"I cannot work - I am unemployed."

No reputable medical authority whatsoever accepts the existence of a syndrome called Gulf War Syndrome
Lewis Moonie, defence minister

Mr Izett said the tribunal's finding was "a great step forward" for other veterans.

He said the MoD was being pushed into a corner and was starting to make mistakes.

"I'm glad we can use these mistakes which they are making to prove they are wrong and prove they damaged our health which they should pay fully-paid pensions for," he said.

"I hope this judgment will have a knock-on effect and that the MoD will now finally tell the truth."

Campaigners have seen his case as the vital link that proves there is a problem specifically with the injections, something long disputed by the government.

'No evidence'

The veterans believe the tribunal's decision constitutes official backing for their position.

The National Gulf War Veterans Association Charles Plumridge said it was "an outstanding victory" and "veterans finally have justice".

"We are now calling on the MoD to officially confirm that we are ill because of the inoculations we were given," he said.

"The MoD have consistently kept saying that there is no scientific or medical evidence that we are ill - surely this judgment provides the medical evidence that we are ill as we claimed."

Unlike an ongoing earlier case, the government has decided not to challenge the verdict.

A unidentified soldier is injected during the first Gulf War
Many soldiers had numerous injections

The High Court has reserved judgment in a dispute over whether Gulf War Syndrome should be recognised officially in law.

In the case of Mr Izett, the MoD said it still disagreed with the verdict but could not find any grounds to contest it.

Defence minister Dr Lewis Moonie said he did not accept that the injections caused the illnesses.

"There is no medical evidence to support that whatsoever," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The tribunal ruling accepted that we could not prove that the ill health was not due to the concoctions.

"If you are going to create a syndrome it has to be one that the medical profession accepts because they are the ones responsible for doing so.

"No reputable medical authority whatsoever accepts the existence of a syndrome called Gulf War Syndrome."

Research

Gulf War Syndrome is associated with a vast array of symptoms including fatigue, nausea, fever and depression.

It has been attributed to injections, depleted uranium ammunition, or even Iraqi chemical weapons, although many believe the nebulous condition could be psychosomatic.

The MoD has acknowledged the existence of the concept of "symptoms and signs of ill-defined conditions" (SSIDC).

But veterans feel there has never been a proper investigation into the issue.

Dr Moonie said some additional experiments were taking place at Porton Down research centre to look at long term effects but there was still no evidence of "systematic harm" as a result of injections.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler, a member of the Royal British Legion Gulf War Group, said he would be demanding a statement from the MoD this week.

"I will be asking the secretary of state to cut the legal waffle and recognise that our troops, who put their lives on the line, deserve better," he said in a statement.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's June Kelly
"Veterans' groups see this as a landmark case"



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